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Demonstration at Ditka's

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Inside Ditka's, that bastion of beer and brotherhood, movie star Raquel Welch was nervously talking about having the right to make choices. Outside, about a dozen demonstrators picketed and proselytized through bullhorns. "You'll be stars in hell too," read one sign.

"I understand there's a street full of people dressed for Halloween," Welch told her audience of more than 80, including such women's rights heavyweights as Betty Friedan, Jacky Grimshaw, and Christie Hefner. "I have a perverse desire to go out there and see them and go uhnnng," she grunted, clenching her teeth and fist. "You know, we are not our father's suffragettes."

Outside the demonstrators chanted, "Back to the yellow brick road, Hollywood go home." The traffic on Ontario slowed in front of Ditka's restaurant as drivers gawked.

As in many other antiabortion demonstrations, picketers carried photographs of aborted fetuses, but these were particularly large-- almost sandwich-board size--and garish. One showed a bloody fetus severed into several parts. Another showed a separated head, blood dripping from it into a jar. "Choice for the babies. Let the babies live," shouted the picketers. Many of the kids walking with their mothers on the line winced and averted their eyes from the shocking red photos.

One woman crossing the sidewalk into Ditka's simply closed her eyes as she went in the door. "I can't look," she said, taking off her coat. "What I want to know is, where do they get these pictures? What doctor, what scientist, allows these kinds of pictures to be taken and used so sensationally? Aren't they breaking some sort of confidentiality law?"

Inside Ditka's, under photos of Tommy Hearns in his boxing trunks and a barrel-bellied prediet Tommy Lasorda, Mary Koenig, one of the elders in attendance at the women's dialogue, was talking about a time when women had to break the law to terminate a pregnancy, often with disastrous results. "I remember talk of slippery elm, of apples, pills, old remedies," she said. "And going to women's funerals."

"Prochoice is death for the babies," a particularly intense man said as he followed a woman right up to the door of Ditka's. He repeated his slogan several times, standing only inches away from her as she struggled with the restaurant's door.

Mary Riley, one of the picket organizers, pulled him over. "Hey listen," she said, "a lot of these people don't know what's going on in here. They just came to watch football or something, OK?"

The man nodded, then walked away like a somnambulist. His sign said "Ditka Please Repent."

Matronly Pat Durava rested against the bar's doorway for a few minutes, looked up at Ditka's logo, and shook her head. "You know, this Webster case is going to bring out a lot of stars who are going to disappoint us," she said. "I really liked Meryl Streep, but there's no way I can go see one of her films again--and I really, really liked her."

She turned to the restaurant's security manager, an older white fellow with a walkie-talkie, who the prochoice people kept thinking was an antichoice demonstrator. "Where does Mr. Ditka stand on this?" she asked. "Does he know what's going on here?"

"Mr. Ditka is not the operating manager," he said.

"So, it's just the name, huh?"

"No, no, no," the security guy said, waving his hands emphatically. "He's a full partner, but this is a business. Personal stuff is out. Besides, during football season that's where Mr. Ditka's at. He's in Pittsburgh today, that's where."

"Did you know Mr. Ditka's sponsoring a prolife dinner tonight?" she asked.

Indeed, Ditka's name did appear on an invitation for a November 18 $100-a-plate antiabortion fund-raiser at the Kenilworth Club, along with Bears owner Virginia McCaskey, former DePaul basketball coach Ray Meyer, and Republican legislator Penny Pullen.

"That's fine," said the security guy. "Maybe those are his personal feelings, but this is a public facility. We have to accommodate everyone. We'll have you. Come next week, I'll get an extra day's pay." He chuckled.

"I think Ditka's not for choice," said Mary Riley, coordinator of the Illinois Citizens Concerned for Life. "I think he'll make a statement. I think he wouldn't have allowed this if he'd known about it. This was put together by his staff, but heads will roll. I think they may have even targeted Ditka's because they wanted to get Ditka."

"Look, this is public space," insisted the security guard. "We can't refuse anyone."

"This isn't public space, it's a private business," retorted Riley. "Ditka's going to have to go after the people who put this together.

I talked to Virginia McCaskey this morning and she said he probably didn't even know. But, you know, it's his name on the place. I'm going to ask him for a statement."

Back inside Ditka's, Lynne Durocher, the public-affairs director who helped put together the prochoice dialogue, brushed off any talk of being in trouble with the boss. "First off, Mike Ditka speaks for himself. No, we're not a public space, but we're open to the public. We have a reputation for catering to major events in the city, including all political parties. This is a business, we run it like a business. [The antiabortion demonstrators] would be welcome to have a private party here if they're willing to follow the law and pay."

Then she added, "I find it inconceivable that anyone walking around with a picket sign would presume to speak for Mike Ditka and know what he's thinking. I wouldn't, and I work for the man."

At the front bar, away from the prochoice and antiabortion conflict, Jim Waller had innocently wandered in to sip a beer and watch some college football on Ditka's big TVs. "They're wasting their time," he said of the demonstrators. "You know, I'd bet Ditka's personally prolife, but I'd have to think, politically, he's prochoice. Because, you know, that's his whole philosophy about life--America and being able to make a choice for yourself and all that."

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